NSA just one of many agencies spying on Americans
Thu Jan 26, 2006 17:54


NSA just one of many agencies spying on Americans

1. Congress and Executive Power

The new law repudiates the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Rasul v. Bush, 124 S. Ct. 2686 (2004), which held that non-U.S. prisoners at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanano Bay, Cuba (GTMO) could access the federal courts via claims based in habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. 2241, federal questions, 28 U.S.C. 1331, and the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350. Now, the prisoners' only access to U.S. courts is limited to appeals of the outcome of GTMO proceedings, and limited to the U..S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The new law also specifically states that the military officers who sit in judgment may use evidence obtained by coercion, if they decide it has "probative value."

The law unwisely limits the longstanding right to habeas corpus forged in England. Habeas corpus requires than the Executive can be forced to justify its detention of any person. It is a check for preventing the Executive from becoming too powerful. After all, an Executive that can jail anyone it dislikes, for as long as it likes, is a formidable power indeed.

Also, the law is an overreaction to 9/11. Fear is understandable, but Congress should recognize that we are not really in a state of "rebellion or invasion," as the Constitution requires for the suspension of habeas corpus; nor is public safety clearly threatened. Repeated fears of "dirty bombs" and remote-controlled planes spraying anthrax make it easy to overlook that there have been no Al Qaeda attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11 ­ not a single bomb, not a single jihadist shooting up a shopping mall, not a single zealot ramming his car into a busy, pedestrian-crammed crosswalk. No major political, sporting or entertainment event has been cancelled due to the threat of terrorism. The government has not required owners of dangerous facilities such as chemical plants to step up security. Even if we were attacked today, we should keep in mind that the peaceful period between 9/11 and now ­ more than four years ­ exceeds the entire length of the U.S. involvement in World War II, as well as the Civil War.

2. NSA Destroyed Evidence of Domestic Spying

The National Security Agency, the top-secret spy shop that has been secretly eavesdropping on U.S. citizens under a plan authorized by President George W. Bush four years ago, destroyed the names of thousands of Americans and U.S. companies it collected shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. According to media sources, the NSA feared it would be taken to task by lawmakers for conducting unlawful surveillance on U.S. citizens without authorization from a court, according to a little known report published in October 2001 and intelligence officials familiar with the NSA's operations.

3. NSA just one of many federal agencies spying on Americans

Besides the NSA, the Pentagon, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security and dozens of private contractors are spying on millions of Americans 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“It’s a total effort to build dossiers on as many Americans as possible,” says a former NSA agent who quit in disgust over use of the agency to spy on Americans. “We’re no longer in the business of tracking our enemies. We’re spying on everyday Americans.”

“It's really obvious to me that it's a look-at-everything type program,” says cryptology expert Bruce Schneier.

Schneier says he suspects that the NSA is turning its massive spy satellites inward on the United States and intentionally gathering vast streams of raw data from many more people than disclosed to date ­ potentially including all e-mails and phone calls within the United States.

But the NSA spying is just the tip of the iceberg.

4. You're being watched ..

Since 9/11, the expansion of efforts to gather and analyze information on U.S. citizens is nothing short of staggering. The government collects vast troves of data, including consumer credit histories and medical and travel records. Databases track Americans' networks of friends, family and associates, not just to identify who is a terrorist but to try to predict who might become one.

5. Judges briefed on domestic spying

The Justice Department has held an unusual closed-door briefing for judges on a secret foreign-intelligence court in response to concerns about President George W. Bush's decision to allow domestic eavesdropping without warrants.

A number of judges from around the country who serve on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which issues eavesdropping warrants in terror cases, flew to Washington to hear the administration's defense Monday of the legality and use of the program, officials said.

One judge who sat on the court, James Robertson, stepped down in protest last month after the warrantless surveillance operation was first publicly disclosed.

Some of the other 10 judges on the court are also known to have voiced recent concerns about whether information that grew out of the National Security Agency's surveillance operation might have been used improperly in securing warrants from the court for intelligence wiretaps.

6. Guantanamo detainee boycotts trial

Al-Bahlul ended his participation in the proceedings with one word in English, "Boycott", and the presiding officer, army Colonel Peter Brownback, set his trial tentatively for 15 May. ...

Through his military lawyer, Captain John Merriam, Khadr asked that a more experienced military attorney be appointed to represent him.

The hearing was the first time that Merriam has defended anybody in a courtroom, and Chester said he thought the request could be granted.

The Pentagon is proceeding with the two cases even though courts have halted the trials of other Guantanamo prisoners pending a US Supreme Court ruling on whether George Bush as president had authority to establish the tribunals to try foreign terrorism suspects after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

7. Persian poker

In this game of poker, Iran is holding five strong cards. While the US invasion of Iraq has brought American troops to its border, they are bogged down while Shia Islamists sympathetic to Iran have emerged triumphant from the Iraqi elections. Tehran feels confident, moreover, that it can play Europeans and Americans off against each other. At home, the clerical regime last year established near total political control, sweeping away a vestigial reformist government with the ascent of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, a fundamentalist who veers alarmingly between provocation and mysticism. To add to its self-confidence, Tehran can claim to be acting within the legal limits of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. Finally, it calculates that its oil and gas riches will win it a sympathetic hearing from countries such as China and India that are scouting for secure energy supplies to feed their fast-growing economies, and perhaps dissuade the US from any precipitate action that might disrupt supplies and send oil prices higher.

8. Syria In Their Sights

The United States is indeed pursuing a hard-edged regime-change strategy for Syria. And it isn’t necessarily going to be a Cold War­ - in fact, it could well get very hot very soon.. In Washington, analysts disagree over exactly how far the Bush administration is willing to go in pursuing its goal of overthrowing the Assad government. In the view of Flynt Leverett, a former CIA Syria analyst now at the Brookings Institution,
the White House favors a kind of slow-motion toppling. In a forum at Brookings, Leverett, author of Inheriting Syria: Bashar’s Trial by Fire, announced his conclusion that Bush was pursuing "regime change on the cheap" in Syria. But others disagree, and believe that Syria could indeed be the next Iraq. For neoconservatives, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. For the rest of us - ­watching the war in Iraq unfold in horror, lurching toward breakup and civil war­ - the prospect ought to be both tragic and alarming.

9. Dividing up the prize - Iraqi oil

The former federal interim administration’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi and Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr Al Uloum both want UK and US oil firms to be given first bite of the oily pie to thank their governments for liberating Iraq. Iraq should do no such thing.

10. US turns against Musharraf

According to a contact who spoke to Asia Times Online, a person close to the US Central Intelligence Agency paid a low-profile visit to New Delhi in the third week of December and briefed strategic planners on Washington's plan to try to curtail the role of the Pakistani army, while at the same time renewing support for democratic forces in Pakistan.

India's cold shoulder on the diplomatic front toward Pakistan and a policy statement against the military operation in Balochistan was an immediate outcome. Islamabad promptly responded by accusing India of meddling in Balochistan, charges that Delhi strenuously denied.

The same person then visited Islamabad and held high-level meetings with political personalities.. On his return to the US he stopped over in Dubai in the UAE and held detailed meetings with former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto, who lives there.

A sudden upsurge in the activities in Pakistan of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy - which Bhutto supports - followed.


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